Free-agent outfielder Kyle Schwarber, one of the heroes of the 2016 World Series title run for the Chicago Cubs, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals, it was announced Saturday.
A source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan that the deal is for $10 million.
Schwarber was non-tendered on Dec. 3, becoming a free agent after six seasons with the Cubs. The 27-year-old outfielder was in his final year of arbitration, but the Cubs let him go after he hit just .188 with 11 home runs in 59 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Schwarber said a “big factor” in his joining the Nationals was reuniting with manager Davey Martinez, who was a coach with the Cubs from 2015 to 2017.
“Once I heard they had interest, it was definitely something I wanted to pursue,” Schwarber said Saturday. “I was ready to say yes right away. I’m honored to be here.
“I love [Martinez] to death. I’m so excited to play for this guy. He only wants to win.”
Schwarber fills two needs that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo outlined heading into the offseason: a corner outfielder and a power hitter to help protect NL batting champion Juan Soto in the lineup.
Unless the designated hitter rule is brought back to the National League in 2021, it seems likely that Schwarber could start in left field, with Soto sliding from that spot over to right field, where he saw a bit of time late last season.
“I’m ready to come in and win another World Series with these guys,” Schwarber said. “I have no hard feelings. I’m excited to make new chapters here. … I don’t ever think a change of scenery is bad. Would have loved to have stayed in Chicago, but it’s not there.”
Can’t wait to get to spring and get in the grind with the fellas! Let do this thing! https://t.co/L2yoPsUpqT
— Kyle Schwarber (@kschwarb12) January 9, 2021
Schwarber hit .230 with 121 home runs in 551 regular-season games with the Cubs, but he’ll be remembered for his performances in the postseason, during which he compiled a .981 OPS in 24 games.
He hit .412 in five games as the Cubs’ designated hitter in the 2016 World Series, which Chicago won in seven games over the Cleveland Indians. That came after he missed all but two games of the 2016 regular season — and the ensuing playoff rounds — because of a knee injury.
“It’s always going to [have] a special place in my heart, especially because of 2016 and what we did there,” Schwarber said of his time in Chicago. “And for me personally, with the injury, being able to come in there and help those guys.”
Manager Joe Maddon made him the Cubs’ leadoff hitter the following year, after Dexter Fowler left via free agency. Schwarber flopped in that role, hitting .190 with a .312 on-base percentage before spending time in the minors. He rebounded with 64 homers over the next two seasons, with 38 homers and 92 RBIs in 2019.
This is Rizzo’s second significant attempt to boost the Nationals lineup, after making a trade to acquire first baseman Josh Bell, a 2019 NL All-Star, from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like Schwarber, the 28-year-old Bell had a career year in 2019 — 37 homers, 116 RBIs, .936 OPS — and slumped in 2020. Bell had a .226 batting average and .669 OPS last season.
Schwarber was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.